Authorities in the northwest African nation of Mauritania say they have put down a coup attempt by disgruntled members of the armed forces. The unrest comes ahead of scheduled presidential elections later this year.

Tank and small arms fire could be heard around the state television and radio stations in Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott, early Sunday, as well as next to the presidential palace and the airport.

Witnesses said a plane, apparently in the hands of insurgents, flew over the city several times, drawing fire.

Authorities said a coup attempt started late Saturday by dissident members of the armed forces had failed and that President Maaouiya Ould Taya and his family were safe. They said the president himself was directing operations to put down the remaining pockets of dissent.

Mr. Ould Taya came to power in a coup in 1984 and says he will run again in presidential elections scheduled for November 7. The radical opposition boycotted the previous presidential vote in 1997.

The unrest closely follows the arrest of several dozen suspected Islamic radicals. More than 30 of them were indicted earlier this month for inciting internal unrest.